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What is Throat Herpes?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Throat herpes is a viral infection of the throat caused by the herpes virus. Herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 can both be involved in cases of throat herpes. True cases isolated to the throat are relatively rare, but it is not uncommon for people with oral herpes to develop herpes sores in or around the throat in addition to around the lips and on the soft palate. There is no cure for this condition, but it can be managed with medication to reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

Also known as esophageal herpes, throat herpes is caused by direct contact with someone who is shedding herpes virus. Contact with sores anywhere on the body, as may occur during oral sex or if people handle a sore and fail to wash their hands before eating, can lead to herpes infections in and around the mouth. Throat herpes can be hard to diagnose when it is just in the throat, as the patient's symptoms may be attributed to generic sore throat.

Symptoms can include pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, and trouble breathing in some cases. An examination of the throat will show small active herpes sores and samples taken from those sores can be taken to test for presence of the virus. Once someone is infected, they have the virus for life, and they can actively shed it even if they have no sores. However, medications can be used to suppress viral production, which will limit viral shedding and reduce the number of outbreaks.

Some people with throat herpes have just one outbreak, after the initial infection. Others may experience recurrent outbreaks unless medication is provided. This condition is more common in people with compromised immune systems, and they can develop other oral infections such as candidiasis as well. If breathing difficulties develop, throat herpes can be a cause for concern.

Many people have herpes and don't know it, and a very high percentage of most populations has been diagnosed with this extremely common viral infection. Regular sexually transmitted infection screening is recommended for people who are sexually active in order to catch diseases like herpes early. It is also advisable to use barrier methods during sexual activity with partners who have an unknown disease status or who are actively infected. Using a dental dam and condoms, and washing carefully after handling the genitals, can significantly reduce the risk of contracting infections during sexual activity.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon322212 — On Feb 26, 2013

Both Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 can be contracted orally or genitally. So there is no "oral herpes" or "genital herpes". A person can get genital herpes if someone with oral herpes (from HSV 1 or 2) performs oral sex on them.

By SteamLouis — On Jan 09, 2013

@ankara-- Not really, there aren't remedies. Antibiotics also don't work for throat herpes since it's caused by a virus. The good news is that the sores usually heal within a week and will more than likely occur after initial infection and disappear.

It's key to keep the immune system strong because it will decrease outbreaks. Sometimes herpes outbreaks can also be triggered by cold and injury as well, although that's rare for throat herpes.

But herpes sores in throat isn't very common in general. It usually only happens when there are herpes outbreaks inside the mouth and these spread to the throat.

By discographer — On Jan 09, 2013

@ankara-- Yes, you're right. Herpes simplex 1 is what is responsible for throat herpes and herpes in and around the mouth and on the lips. This can be transferred through kissing or sharing utensils.

Herpes simplex 2 is transferred through sexual contact only and the sores caused by it usually appear around the genitals.

Blood tests and/or a swap of the sores is the only way to know which herpes virus is responsible for the sores, if it is indeed herpes.

By bluedolphin — On Jan 08, 2013

One of the herpes simplex viruses has nothing to do with sexual activity right? Isn't that the same virus that causes cold sores around the mouth?

So how can someone prevent infection with that herpes virus to avoid herpes of the throat? Are there any home remedies that can be used if it happens?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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